Read: Titus 2:11-13
“11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The Bible doesn’t give us the date of Jesus birthday. We don’t know for certain that it was December 25th. (Sorry, I feel like I just told a kid about “Santa”).
Some claim that the early church was trying to evangelize pagan lands conquered by the Roman Empire, and used a strategy of replacing rather than eliminating pagan holidays with Christian celebrations. Those claims are largely overstated. For example, Easter is not based on a pagan holiday, it is biblically and historically timed with Passover. Halloween IS an example of a former pagan holiday that the early church tried to change into “All Saints Day” (All “Hallows Eve”). It didn’t work.
There is considerable debate about Christmas, and the Dec. 25th date. There were pagan holidays celebrated at the winter solstice (Dec. 21 or 22). One theory is that the December 25th date was selected by the early church to correspond to the winter solstice and they missed it by 3 days (still, not bad for amateur astronomers, right?). That theory doesn’t really hold up. If the pagans had it right, and early Christendom knew when the pagans celebrated, then how did they get the date wrong?
Here is a better theory: Luke 1:26 tells us that Gabriel’s visit to Mary was in the sixth month. The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is in mid to late September, so late March is plausible. Add to that the early belief that Jesus died (calculations based on Passover) on March 25th, on the same date that He was conceived in Mary. So, add 9 months to March 25, and BINGO! There’s the December 25th date of Jesus’ birth.
The eastern Christian tradition (eastern orthodox church traditions) celebrates Jesus’ birth on Jan. 6th, for different reasons. Like most other famous people of antiquity we don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ birth. I’m good with the December 25th date, but does it really matter? No, it doesn’t. It is not the exact date of His birth that is important; it is the reason for His birth that is important.
Shalom, Pastor Rob Nystrom